Trusting God is one of those challenges we as Christians talk about, but may not necessarily define. We encourage one another to “trust the Lord,” but we are not sure what it really means. We also tend to view it as something optional, there are times we trust God and times we do not. But it is more serious than that. Jerry Bridges writes in his book Trusting God, Even when Life Hurts, “I have spent a good portion of my adult life encouraging people to pursue holiness, to obey God. Yet, I acknowledge it often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him….Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character. God views our distrust of Him as seriously as He views our disobedience.” What does it really mean to trust God? Proverbs 3:5-6 answers that question, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
THE REQUIREMENTS FOR TRUSTING THE LORD (v. 5-6a)
- Our trust must be external: in the Lord. What I mean by external is that the basis of our trust must not be inside ourselves. In other words, biblical trust is based upon something—or someone—outside of ourselves. Trust in God is not something we muster up by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps or psyching ourselves up. Trusting God is placing ourselves in a position whereby we rest upon His promises. The only proper source of trust, and object of trust, is God. He alone is absolutely trustworthy. As Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD” (17:7). In competition to the Lord are the unworthy objects of trust that our hearts often place confidence in; such as man’s strength (Ps 33:16-17), princes, government leaders (Ps 146:3), wisdom and riches (Jer 9:23), or our own heart (Prov 28:26). For faith to be biblical, it must have the right object: God.
- Our trust must be entire: with all your heart. Biblical trust is wholehearted. Since the heart is the mind, emotions, and will, biblical faith is the entrusting of your total being to God in submission to His Word. The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is unbelief. The Bible frequently calls us to give our whole heart to God. “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5). “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart” (Ps 119:2). “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13).
- Our trust must be exclusive: do not lean on your own understanding. The most natural thing we do is lean upon our own understanding and then act upon it. However, great danger accompanies trust in ourselves. “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors” (Hos 10:13). The apostle warns, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Proverbs says we are a fool if we trust our heart (Prov 28:26).
Charles Bridges, a minister in the Church of England in the early 1800’s, wrote in his commentary on Proverbs, “Man with all his pride feels that he wants something to lean to. As a fallen being, he naturally leans to himself, to his own foolish notions and false fancies. Human power is his idol. His understanding is his God….This is the history of the fall; the history of man from the fall; the dominant sin of every unhumbled heart; the lamented and resisted sin of every child of God.” Walking in God’s wisdom is the opposite of trusting one’s own heart.
- Our trust must be expressive: in all your ways acknowledge Him. The word “ways” refers to a journey, the journey of your life. The Christian life is a faith-journey, a daily walk that eventually results in month, years, and decades. This journey of faith is illustrated powerfully, for example, in Hebrews 11:8-19 as the author describes the faith of Abraham and Sarah.
THE REWARD FOR TRUSTING THE LORD (v. 6b) God promises clear direction to those who trust in Him. Throughout biblical history, believers have always sought the Lord’s guidance through pleading in prayer. Here are just a few examples: “O LORD, lead me in Thy righteousness because of my foes; make Thy way straight before me” (Ps 5:8); “Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation; for Thee I wait all the day” (Ps 25:5); “Teach me Thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a level path, because of my foes” (Ps 27:11); “Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God; let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Ps 143:10). In Scripture, we find at least five assurances of God’s guidance.
- God will guide into pleasant paths (Ps 23:1-2).
- God will guide in making decisions (Ps 25:8-9).
- God will guide to the end of life (Ps 48:14).
- God will guide by wise counsel (Ps 73:24).
- God will guide into understanding the truth (Ps 143:10; Jn 16:13).
Psalm 37:3-5 is a soul-strengthening Scripture for every believer who is struggling to trust God: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” This is the promise of God when we trust in Him with all our heart.